The World Health Organization is warning that gonorrhea may soon become untreatable.
The agency said the widespread improper use of the antibiotics has reduced the ability to clear up the sexually transmitted infection, Bloomberg.com reported.
“We are dealing with a serious issue with the implication that gonorrhea may become untreatable,” Shin Young-soo, the WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, said in the statement. “This will have a major impact on our efforts to control the disease and will result in an increase in serious health-related complications.”
The Geneva-based agency said it has developed an action plan with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve monitoring for drug-resistant gonorrhea and identify alternative treatments against the disease.
It’s estimated that more than 700,000 people in the U.S. contract gonorrheal infections each year. Only about half of those infections are reported, according to the CDC.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause very serious health issues for both men and women including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infections in newborn children and swelling of the scrotum.
It also increases the likelihood of acquiring and transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.